My U.S. citizen father petitioned for me in category F1 – do I need to stay unmarried?

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Question:

I am 23 years old and live in Mexico, but my dad lives in the U.S., and recently became a U.S. citizen. He filed a visa petition for me to immigrate to the United States. I am in category F1 of the visa preference system (for adult children of U.S. citizens), which seems to be very backed up. According to what I see on the latest the State Department Visa Bulletin, people with priority dates about seven years earlier than mine are only now getting their green cards. To make matters more complicated, my fiancé (who is also Mexican) wants us to get married soon – not wait for seven years until I move to the United States! But my father told me that if I marry, I will no longer qualify for this category of green card. What do I do?

Answer:

As a visa applicant in category F1, which is indeed limited to sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who have not yet married, getting married will not cancel your ability to get a U.S. green card – but it will in all likelihood slow it down. Here’s why.

Like most of the categories of family-based green cards within the visa preference system, the demand for F1 visas is far higher than the annual supply. Only approximately 23,400 visas are made available to category F1 worldwide each year. As a result, the average wait is around seven years between when the U.S. petitioner files the I-130 visa petition and when the foreign applicant is finally allowed to go forward with the green card application.

An F1 who gets married automatically drops into a different category: F3, for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. This category also allows for a maximum of only about 23,400 visas to be given out per year. But the demand is even higher than in category F1, with the result that the average wait is around ten years between when the U.S. petitioner files the I-130 petition and when the foreign applicant can move forward with the green card application.

The good news is, you will keep your original priority date even after getting married. So you will be, in effect, credited for any time that you have waited for a green card so far. But it could be a very long wait, whether or not you get married. Learn more about tracking your place in line based on your priority date.

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